St. Paul United Methodist Church
History of St. Paul UMC - New Ellenton, SC
Copyright © 2017 St. Paul UMC - New Ellenton, SC
St. Paul United Methodist Church 1952 - 2018
The information for this historical account of St. Paul United Methodist Church is a combination
of three previous histories as well as new information obtained by the editor.
The present editor acknowledges the work of Donald and Mary Funderburk,
who edited 'This Is Our Heritage, the 25th Anniversary History of St. Paul', dated August 31, 1978,
Laura Mitchell, Betty Eubanks Rowland, Gladys Thames Britt, and Marie Stamey Renwick,
who edited the Historical Directory, dated February 28, 1993, for our 40th anniversary.
The current account is a continuation of 'Christ, Our Cornerstone,
the History of the first 50 years of St. Paul United Methodist Church', compiled by Randy Stowe in 2003.
This book is dedicated to the memory of all former members of Springs Church / St. Paul United Methodist Church
who are with us now only in spirit.
Edited by Randy Stowe (Version Updated on 06-05-2016)
It is important that we keep our history accurate. If you discover errors in this manuscript,
please let the St. Paul UMC church office know so that the information can be corrected.
HISTORY OF ST. PAUL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
On November 29, 1950, an article in the Aiken Standard and Review newspaper proclaimed: “The United States Atomic Energy Commission today announced that its new production plants to be designed, built and operated by E. I. du Pont Nemours Company of Wilmington, Delaware, will be located in Aiken and Barnwell counties, South Carolina, near the Savannah River.” This announcement heralded an influx of new residents into the area to build the Savannah River Plant, which many referred to as the “bomb plant.” This tranquil, rural section of South Carolina was transformed overnight into a bustling center of construction activity.
The residents of the sleepy railroad town of Ellenton and several other small communities were forced to move and make way for the sprawling nuclear facility, leaving homes, farms, and churches behind. The Methodists in Ellenton had just completed a new brick church when the government announced their plans. The new building had to be sold, and the proceeds from the sale were divided between Bethel Methodist, a new church to be built in Jackson, and the existing Springs Methodist Church, a small rural church several miles outside the plant boundary in the Talatha community. Mr. David Sims requested the funds on behalf of 14 former members of the Ellenton church who were transferring to Springs.
In November of 1952, the Rev. Melvin E. Tingle was appointed by Bishop Costen J. Harrell of the South Carolina Conference to serve Springs Methodist Church. Rev. Tingle was sent to minister to the members at Springs Church, and at the same time, he was commissioned to establish a new church, closer to the emerging town of New Ellenton. A new church was needed due to the large number of Methodists who had moved into the area from all over the country.
According to the minutes of the November 3, 1952, meeting of the members of Springs church and the Bishop, the District Superintendent, and Rev. Tingle, Bishop Harrell “prayed that plans might be made wisely and well, so that the Church could minister to those who had come here. The long history of Springs and the tender sentiments associated with it were recalled, and he asked that as the congregation planned to move out nearer where it might better minister to the multitudes that they might turn men and women to the Lord and Savior of us all. He asked God to prosper the work, to bless Brother and Mrs. Tingle, and to bless and redeem our hearts.”
The building fund already amounted to $8,445.85. There was much discussion about the location of the new church. At least two parcels of land had been identified, one available for purchase and one offered to be donated for a church and parsonage. A major factor in choosing the site was “that the new church must be where it could be seen and entice and attract people to go there.” A site on a small hill facing Highway 19 just south of the new town was eventually selected.
Miss Charlotte Stevenson, a Methodist social worker, was assisting with the initial efforts of forming the new churches in New Ellenton and Jackson. Bishop Harrell suggested that she “could gather little cells of Methodists in the trailers, under indigenous leadership, and get them ready to come to the church.” Many of the new residents lived in several large trailer parks in the community. Construction workers were housed in all sorts of makeshift accommodations, including tents.
According to quarterly conference records, dated February 15, 1953, the property for the new church had been secured, the well drilled, a road cut through the lot, and the building plans, approved by the Bishop and the General Board of Missions, had been selected, the builder hired, and the church was ready to be laid off. By April 26, 1953, the quarterly conference report indicated that the building was progressing rapidly.
The members of Springs church held their final homecoming at the old church on the last Sunday in August. The first services were held in the new building on September 1, and the new center of worship was dedicated on September 29, 1953. Quarterly conference records, dated September 29, show that church membership was around 100. The two-story brick church had been constructed at a cost of over $40,000.00, and the construction was finished with the exception of a heating furnace which was to be installed at a cost of $3,475.00. Amazingly enough, only $6,000.00 had to be borrowed from the Bank of Greenwood, due to the church receiving a grant from the General Board of Missions in the amount of $10,000.00.
Members of the Building Committee and of the Official Board of the Church during that surge of growth and activity (1953-54) were: William A. Cline, Mrs. William A. Cline, Thoy Eubanks, James Evans, Floyd Furr, Glenn Garrett, J. Randolph Johnson, Mrs. J. R. Johnson, John McKinney, Robert Mennenga, Mrs. Sheldon Mitchell, Carole Owens, David Sims, Mrs. Frank Smith, Mrs. Ralph Steele, Mrs. Rebecca Thames, Davis Toole, Sr., Richard Wall, Ramie Yonce, and Mrs. Ramie Yonce.
Rev. and Mrs. Tingle lived in a mobile home for a short time, but in September a small house was purchased on Old Whiskey Road, directly behind the church, to be used as a parsonage. The cost of the new parsonage was $7,000.00, but the person from whom the house was purchased donated $500.00, making the actual cost only $6,500.00. On this debt the church borrowed $6,000.00 from Mrs. Lily Yonce, a member of the church. The Fellowship Class, a Sunday school class composed mainly of young couples, assumed the responsibility of providing furnishings for the new parsonage.
The church continued to make progress, and by quarterly conference on August 15, 1954, the membership was 136. In November of 1954, Rev. James Alewine, his wife Betty, and two small children became the parsonage family at the young church.
This new church continued to be called Springs Methodist, New Ellenton Charge, until sometime in 1955, when a congregational vote mandated that the name become “St. Paul Methodist.” The Quarterly Conference Report of March 13, 1955, is the first time that the new name appears in the official church records. Vacation Bible school certificates that summer, however, still listed the name of the church as Springs Methodist.
The original building had six Sunday school classrooms behind the sanctuary and a spacious fellowship hall downstairs. Within two years the members dug out the unfinished space under the sanctuary and added six more classrooms, which were first used in early 1956.
In 1957 Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Blackmon donated a lot adjacent to the church for a new parsonage. Those who served on the Parsonage Building Committee were: Charles Thames, Lavearn Akins, W. D. Blackmon, and Glen Garrett. The home was built by D. W. Robinson, a local builder and member of St. Paul. He agreed to build the new parsonage at a cost of $10,000.00 plus the old parsonage, which was valued then at $6,000.00. The new house was larger than the previous parsonage and provided sufficient space for a young pastor with a growing family. After several renovations and expansions over the years, it continues to be the home of St. Paul pastors.
Rev. Alewine ministered to the members of St. Paul for six years during a time of rapid growth, and by the time he left, the membership of the church was over 250. During this period there were many children and youth in the church. In addition to Sunday school, most of the children and youth participated in one of several choirs. Vacation Bible School was the highlight of the summer for children. There was an annual fellowship time around Halloween, and in December the children participated in pageants depicting the birth of Jesus. There was always a visit from St. Nicholas, too. Covered dish dinners were popular fellowship times for the young families. The smaller children often ate their meals on the stairs leading from the upstairs into the fellowship hall or outside on the front steps.
In 1960 Rev. Woodrow Ward was assigned to St. Paul. With him came his wife, Ruth, who was a skilled teacher of children. She is remembered as a person who taught the Sunday school teachers some excellent methods of communicating the gospel message to children. She believed strongly in the importance of children in the church family and felt that the very best in materials and techniques should be made available to them. It was probably at her urging that the educational annex was built onto the original building. Members who were children at St. Paul during this period fondly remember the recreational games that Rev. Ward organized during Vacation Bible School.
Due to the large crowds attending at this point, a portion of our members who lived on the south side of Aiken pulled away from St. Paul and began the process of forming a new church. On February 5, 1961, these Methodists began meeting in a room adjacent to Herchel’s Shell station between New Ellenton and Aiken. The new church broke ground on June 10, 1962, and the first services in the new sanctuary of Trinity Methodist Church were held on December 16, 1962. St. Paul lost some faithful members to this new church, but we are proud to be the mother church of another successful Methodist congregation.
At St. Paul a church conference on November 19, 1961, approved plans for a new educational building. Members of that building committee were: Mrs. Pauline Alexander, Wallace Brock, O. G. Garrett, Mrs. Harry Smith, George Stowe, Charles Thames, and O. S. Mitchell. Members of the congregation did most of the work and tried to use the pay-as-you-go method of paying for the building, but toward the end of the project, a loan had to be obtained to complete the work. The addition was completed and dedicated on May 29, 1966.
There was an active Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) during these years. The youth participated in Sunday evening programs and attended monthly meetings and an annual retreat with other church youth groups throughout the Sub District. Matt and Doris Boatwright took over the MYF from Carole Thames around 1960, and they worked tirelessly with the program for the next 20 years. The traditional Halloween party was held after the children returned from trick or treating to benefit UNICEF, a program to assist needy children around the world. During the late 1960’s attendance at the South Carolina Methodist Camp in the mountains near Cleveland was a popular summer experience for our young people.
Sunday evening services were well attended, and the fellowship hall was full every Wednesday evening for prayer meetings. The publication of the Good News (TEV) translation of the New Testament in 1966 sparked new interest in Bible study among our members. Confirmation classes each year were full of young people preparing to join the church. When the minister took a vacation, we had several laymen, such as Wallace Brock and Lavearn Akins, who were willing and able to fill the pulpit. Prior to his transferring to the new Trinity church, William Cline also often filled in as a lay speaker. After 1968 a new emphasis was placed on lay speaking, replacing all other terms for that service of ministry.
In 1966 the Rev. George C. Owens, his wife Karolyn, and their two sons, Clay and John, came to St. Paul. Under the leadership of Rev. Owens the church continued to grow. In 1968 St. Paul Methodist became St. Paul United Methodist Church, when the Methodist Church united with the Evangelical United Brethren Church. With this merger a new structure was initiated, and it was not long before St. Paul was organized in keeping with this new plan.
In 1970 the debt on the parsonage was eliminated, and other improvements were made, not the least of which was the air conditioning system installed in the church at a cost of $10,000. Many of our older members fondly remember the paper fans provided by the local funeral home, which were always in the pew racks along with hymnals prior to the addition of the air conditioning. Also, before we added the stained glass windows, the windows in the sanctuary could be opened on hot days.
Our original sanctuary had natural oak and pine woodwork, and the choirs were seated on both sides of the altar. The communion rail ran straight across the front of the church closing off the altar and the choirs. A large print of Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ was directly in the center of the wall behind the pulpit. Since members walking out the back of the sanctuary had to wend their way through the choir chairs, almost everyone leaving the church walked out through the front door, where the minister always greeted and shook hands with everyone. After church adults visited on the lawn under the magnolia trees out front while the children frolicked and played. Sliding down the banister of the front stairs and playing hide-n-seek in the tall bushes were standard games.
The Rev. Benjamin B. Barnes was appointed to St. Paul at the Annual Conference in 1970. Mrs. Sue Barnes assumed the leadership of the adult choir after Mrs. Lucile Lyda, who was a tireless church worker during her years in New Ellenton, retired to North Carolina. Their children, Will, Susan, and Benjie, were active in our children’s and youth programs. The church then had 392 members. Two highly successful Lay Witness Missions were held during his ministry. Our popular evening church services consisted of singing hymns by request followed by altar prayers (altar prayers that alter lives).
Although the church has always been “mission minded,” it became more personally involved in community outreach and foreign missions during the 1970’s. A senior citizens group, made up of seniors from both St. Paul and other local churches, was started in July 1972. It was known as the Morning Glory Club until June 1979 when it was renamed in honor of one of its major supporters, M. L. (Lynn) LeGrand. The Lynn LeGrand Senior Group grew to be one of the most active groups in the church. We also began a tape ministry to provide audio tapes of services to members who could not attend church services.
The church sponsored Matt Boatwright and Rev. Ben Barnes on a trip to Fortaleza, Brazil. There they performed manual labor to assist in the building of a Methodist Church. Since that time, a number of others have been sent on such missions by St. Paul. These personal experiences have proved to be a valuable source of spiritual uplifting to the participants and the church as a whole.
There were many young people, and both junior-high and senior-high UMYF groups were active. Many current adults remember the retreats at the Blands’ cabin in the mountains, the Barneses’ house at Edisto, and at Oconee State Park and Whitewater Falls. The children and youth participated in the Aiken church basketball league. Our mite girls team won the Aiken Department of Recreation championship in 1970-71. In September of 1973, a bus was purchased to provide transportation for the many groups actively worshiping at St. Paul. We held an annual church picnic at Aiken State Park accompanied by a popular softball game. There was an annual summer trip to Six Flags over Georgia for the youth. Our membership reached 401 in 1975, an all time high.
In June of 1977 the Rev. Donald F. Funderburk and his family moved into the parsonage. Meetings were held immediately to finalize plans that had been started during Rev. Barnes’s tenure to renovate the sanctuary. A bank loan was secured for $47,000.00, and work began in July of 1977. During the renovation, services were held in the Fellowship Hall. On October 30, 1977, services were again held in the newly refurbished sanctuary. Members of the Renovations committee were O. S. Mitchell, Mrs. Mildred Akins, Matt Boatwright, Carroll Griffith, McKellar Eubanks, and Mrs. Jean Smith.
The renovations moved the choir loft to its present position behind the pulpit, and the stairs leading to the fellowship hall were removed. The woodwork was stained brown, and exposed beams added to the ceiling. The lighted stained glass of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane was added behind the choir. A communion rail in a semicircular shape around the pulpit and new light fixtures hanging from the ceiling added to the present appearance of our sanctuary.
Stained glass windows were added in 1978, each window being purchased by individuals or groups in memory or honor of a loved one. These windows were installed at a cost of $11,362.00 by Stained Glass Associates of Raleigh, North Carolina. The windows were dedicated on September 17, 1978, when St. Paul celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Fellowship Hall was also renovated during this period. Membership of St. Paul in 1978 stood at 391 members.
A monthly newsletter was started in February 1978 to keep the membership better informed of activities of the church family. Our first pictorial directory of the membership was also published that year. Mrs. Funderburk encouraged us to start a church library, and Clyde Hill built the shelves for the books. Nettie Jean LeGrand was the first librarian.
In June of 1978 the trustees purchased 2.751 additional acres of land adjacent to the parsonage and extending from Highway 19 to Old Whiskey Road from Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Blackmon for $6,877.50. This additional land would allow growing room for the church’s future. We added a softball field behind the parsonage on some of this land.
May of 1979 was an exciting month for our children and youth when they performed in Down by the Creek Bank under the direction of Karen Wyont, who had taken over the duties of children’s choir director two years earlier. More than one performance was necessary due to this musical’s popularity. George Stowe designed and built a special stage for this production and future children and youth choir cantatas and plays. Outstanding musical productions for our young people have become a tradition at St. Paul.
In 1980 Rev. Charles Polk and his wife Hattie became our parsonage family. During this period the children participated in Super Sundays, and our young adults began meeting regularly outside of Sunday school. On the missions front, we supported Rev. Paul Rogers in the West Indies. The LeGrand Senior Group was active and growing. The Rev. Frankie Sann visited our pulpit and described his prison ministry at the CCI in Columbia. Two additional tracts of land beside the parsonage were added to our facilities. In 1983 we purchased 1.7 acres for $3,500 from the Blackmon estate, and one additional tract was donated. Our budget for 1983, our church’s 30th year, was $70,896.00.
In 1984 Rev. Henry Thomson became our minister. We supported the Murrays, missionaries in the South Pacific, and the Lee Memorial Mission School in India during his ministry. In February 1986 the Alcoholics Anonymous group started meeting regularly at our church. The UMW and the UMYF were active. We restarted our UMM group which had stopped meeting several years earlier. The young adults continued to meet regularly. The Family Life School served as our summer vacation Bible school. In 1987 we replaced the neglected flower circle in the middle of our cemetery with a marble cross. On May 5, 1986, the Administrative Board decided to cancel our Sunday night worship services because attendance had dropped. One of three recorded visits of the bishop occurred on October 12, 1986, when Bishop Clark attended our charge conference.
Henry Thomson passed away on April 8, 1987, following an extended illness. He continued to serve our church and Christ through much of his final illness, sitting behind the pulpit on a stool his last few Sundays. We were inspired by his planning to provide for the needs of his family after he was gone. He is buried in the St. Paul cemetery. His wife Mae, who was a local teacher, and their three daughters made their home in New Ellenton afterwards.
During the period of time when our pulpit was empty after Rev. Thomson’s passing, various laity of the church provided our Sunday messages and fulfilled the other duties of the church. In June 1987 the Administrative Board recognized McKellar Eubanks, in particular, as a member of our church who “made the ministry of the church go forward” until the Conference could send us a new minister.
Rev. Ray Smith and his family moved into the parsonage in June of 1987. He started a popular summer recreation program for children known as Wonderful Wednesday. His wife Sarah, who worked as a public health nurse, reinvigorated our UMYF program for the youth. McKellar Eubanks donated new insulated windows for the church in 1988. This same year we enlarged the parsonage. Our mission programs during this period included the Stone Soup luncheon to benefit UMCOR, the Community Crop Walk, Thanksgiving baskets for the needy, family week contributions to the Heifer Project, and an angel tree to provide Christmas presents for residents of local nursing homes. God’s storehouse generated contributions from our members for excess vegetables from our gardens. In 1989 the UMYF attended retreats at Springmaid Beach and at Lake Junaluska.
Several other significant events took place in 1989. We set up a perpetual care fund for the upkeep of the cemetery at Old Springs. We replaced our hymnals. A controversial plan to add a steeple to the church was voted down on August 6, 1989. Our Sunday school classes began providing monthly devotions at the Parker Home. The Council on Ministries decided to change from monthly meetings to quarterly meetings. Jane Morris began a Sunday school class for disabled students.
Several members participated in Volunteers in Mission trips during this period, including Bill Compton to Ecuador, Rev. Smith and Marie and Amos Renwick to Andros Island in the Bahamas, and Rev. Smith and Bill Compton to Haiti. Several of our youth participated in the Salkahatchie project during the summers. A new generation of children performed Down by the Creek Bank in March of 1990. On March 11, 1990, Bishop Joseph Bethea visited our church and presented the morning message. The UMM began participating in the Adopt-A-Highway program in 1991. For most of the 1990’s our church was a distribution center for government commodities and was staffed by member volunteers on distribution day.
In 1991 we began placing crosses and flags on veterans’ graves in our cemetery on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day. Our missions contributions went to the Woffords, missionaries in Brazil. That year we also set up a perpetual care fund for the St. Paul cemetery. With the donation of a computer, we added this new technology to our clerical work at the church. We held a Lay Witness Mission in October of 1992. Wallace Brock and Joe Roberts went on a UMVIM trip to Eluthera Island in the Bahamas in 1993. Barbecue picnics at the church accompanied by a softball game became a popular new tradition.
We added a pitched roof to the educational building in early 1993 and celebrated our 40th anniversary on February 28, 1993. Our annual budget that year had grown to $124,923.00. Typical Sunday school attendance in the spring of 1993 was between 100 and 120. In 1993 we also merged the Administrative Board and the Council on Ministries into a single Administrative Council.
Rev. Michael Bruce became our minister in June of 1993. We started Children’s Church in 1994 to allow the young children to leave the sanctuary after the children’s sermon and go downstairs for a program more appropriate to their needs. This was also the year we purchased a van to replace the bus, which we sold in 1993 after several years of little use. We had noticed for years that the age mix of our membership was changing. Rev. Solomon Muwanga from Uganda visited in May of 1995 and began a period of St. Paul support for the United Methodists in that African nation. The tape ministry under Alice and Shirley Johnson became even more active when we began making videotapes available to our shut-ins.
We hired William Greer, a Wofford College student, over the summer of 1995 to work with our children and youth. Sharon Wiley, a seminary student, worked with children and youth during the next two summers, and we employed her during the 1997 year as Director of Family Ministries.
When Rev. Bruce was reassigned to another church prior to the normal June moving day in 1999, Rev. Bill Berry, a retired United Methodist minister from Georgia, ably filled our pulpit for several months, until Rev. Randy Taylor was appointed as minister to St. Paul in 1999.
As we approached the 50th year of St. Paul, attendance at morning worship was just over 100. Sunday school attendance hovered between 50 and 75. A small group attended vespers on Sunday evenings. A prayer group met on Tuesday mornings. The adult choir under the direction of Gail Ferguson provided an anthem each Sunday, and the children and youth choirs under the direction of Karen Wyont sang for us on a regular basis. Our monthly newsletter kept members informed of church events, and we all enjoyed Betty Fischer’s “Life in the Christian Lane” and other special articles.
Although we had fewer children and youth, we provided a strong Christian education program. Several summers we hired a college student to work with our children and youth. Elizabeth Williams in 2001 and Melanie Rollins in 2002 through 2004 provided this special summer programming. Family Week was a popular summer program, with classes for all ages. Children enjoyed our traditional Easter egg hunt, a fall festival around Halloween, and an outside pageant with live animals or a musical at Christmas.
We continued to be involved in local missions. Alcoholics Anonymous continued to utilize a room under our sanctuary for daily meetings. Scout troops were utilizing our facilities. The Aiken Area Council on Aging provided a lunch and program for senior citizens each weekday in our fellowship hall. The Sunday school classes continued to provide devotions monthly at the Parker Home. At Thanksgiving we provided baskets for the needy, and at Christmas we served as angels for the local nursing homes. During the summer our youth participated in Salkahatchie Summer Service, and we fed the Salkahatchie youth working in our area. Our annual Stone Soup Lunch reminded us of the hunger in our world. Each summer God’s Storehouse provided funding for missions when excess produce from local gardeners is sold to our members. Each Sunday during the children’s sermon, the children gave Pennies for Missions, and before they left for children’s church, they prayed at the altar with the minister.
Several traditions and worship services were significant events in our church year. At Christmas the symbolic Chrismon tree and poinsettias decorated our sanctuary, and the communion service on Christmas Eve was popular. On the front lawn we placed our life-size nativity scene, as we have for decades. At Easter we looked forward to the special Palm Sunday and Tennebrae Services, the Easter lilies surrounding the altar, and the flower cross on Easter morning. We held a Fourth of July ceremony to honor our members who served in the Armed Forces and placed crosses and flags on the graves of our veterans three times a year. A horn of plenty decorated our altar at Thanksgiving.
On October 4, 1998, our church voted on a ten-year plan to build a new church complex on the land adjacent to the parsonage. The first step in this process was to be the building of a Family Life Center. The Leap of Faith Fund was started to raise money to build the Family Life Center. This was an ongoing fundraising project for many years. The various Leap of Faith fundraisers, both by individuals and by groups, revealed a deep commitment to the goal of providing this facility for our church and community. One of the most creative was Santa Faye’s, a flea market set up inside an old house near Oak Hill, with most of the proceeds going to the Leap of Faith. Over the years the planned function of the Family Life Center shifted from a metal building with a gymnasium to a new fellowship hall, but the dream remained.
We celebrated our church’s 50th anniversary on September 20 and 21, 2003. Saturday was a time of fellowship and renewing friendships, with a barbecue dinner provided. Sunday was a worship service, with the Rev. James Alewine providing the message. Six charter members--Virginia Steele, Carole Owens Thames, Charles Thames, Julia Johnson Bryson, Eugenia “Jean” Smith, and Laura B. Mitchell--were in attendance. Rev. Alewine, in his message, asked us to invite him back for the 100th anniversary. (If we have a 100th anniversary, we know he will be there with us.)
As Rev. Randy Taylor reached the end of his service at St. Paul, the church membership felt the need for a young minister to serve our congregation, since we were an aging membership and needed new involvement from our younger couples. We expressed this desire to the district superintendent and reduced the base salary to ensure that our request was considered.
In June of 2005 we welcomed the Rev. Brian Gilmer, his wife Jennifer, and their 3-year-old daughter Bryson to our parsonage. This was only his second appointment and his first single church. He brought new enthusiasm and programming to the church, especially short-term studies on Sunday and Wednesday evenings for the adults. Our membership began to increase during his tenure, but most of the new members were retirees moving into our community.
Mrs. Tara Buffett was hired in April of 2006 to work with our children and youth. Her husband Matt had been the pianist for several years. Our UMYF started meeting regularly again, but we struggled to increase the number of children participating in our Sunday school and other activities. The year 2006 was highlighted by the groundbreaking for our long-awaited Family Life Center on August 13.
On May 27, 2007, the Family Life Center was consecrated by Rev. Gilmer. He noted that “God so moved the hearts of the people that this house has been built for praise and prayer. “ He also warned about a “failure of vision which would confine our worship and fellowship within these walls.” Everyone saw the new facility as a milestone in the history of the church, as well as a challenge for our future.
During 2007 the church also put new shingles on the roof, removing the chimney, and we added a new wheelchair lift at the back door, replacing the old lift that had stopped working. While the new lift was being installed, services were held in the new Family Life Center, and for the first time we experienced the new technology of computer-projected photos and song lyrics on a large screen behind the pulpit during the services. We installed an improved sound system in our sanctuary and started producing copies of our service on DVDs for shut ins. We began to support the programs of the nearby Christ Central Mission Station. Our youth attended the spiritual life retreat at Springmaid Beach, held their annual summer retreat at Asbury Hills, and participated in Salkehatchie Summer Service.
The success of our services in the Family Life Center and the need to reach out to new members prompted us to start a second worship opportunity in a contemporary format prior to our Sunday school hour. The new service called Alive at 8:55 and meeting in our FLC began on April 6, 2008. Praise music (with guitars, keyboard, and drums), the earlier hour, and the laid-back style of the alternative service attracted a respectable crowd. The youth enjoyed a trip to Lake Junaluska in June, including a whitewater rafting experience.
As we began the year 2009 St. Paul had 244 members. We purchased a new 14-passenger bus, which was more accessible for the seniors. The adults started taking more trips, planned by Jane Morris. The UMM went to the newly renovated Asbury Hills on a retreat in June. Typical attendance at the Alive at 8:55 service was about 30 worshippers each Sunday morning, the traditional service in the sanctuary between 70 and 90. Sunday school attendance was 30 to 40, with only a handful of children and youth attending. UMYF was meeting twice a month on Sunday evenings, and eight youth and four adults attended two different Salkehatchie missions that summer. We did not have our traditional Family Week; instead we had a series of weekend events for the children, with several recreational opportunities for which we rented inflatable games. Although ten youth participated in the confirmation class in October, we continued to have concerns about our aging membership and the small number of young couples attending. Many of our older members who had built St. Paul and supported the church for so long were passing on.
During a cold winter, highlighted by the first measurable snow in ten years, the youth attended Revolution in Columbia, the new conference youth revival that replaced the spiritual life retreats at Springmaid Beach. The spring of 2010 was highlighted by a well attended Easter egg hunt at Aiken State Park, where we had been going each spring for several years. We made plans to have several Family Funfests this summer in lieu of a traditional Vacation Bible School. On May 16, 2010, Rev. Gilmer announced that the conference was moving him to Lyman, SC, in the upstate and that our new minister would be Rev. Tresco Shannon.
Rev. Shannon began his ministry at St. Paul on July 4, 2010. Several weeks later thirteen St. Paul youth and adults, a record number of participants from our church, participated in Salkehatchie Summer Service. Three adults and two youth went to the Travelers Rest camp, where Rev. Gilmer was co-director, and the others attended Black Swamp Camp in Hampton. Attendance on Sundays was decreasing, with Sunday school attendance around 30 and attendance at both worship services combined around 80.
The most active programs in 2011 were the series of adult trips, such as to the Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre and to Myrtle Beach, organized by Jane Morris. In October we held a three-night revival, sponsored by our new Witness Committee. During the waning months of 2011 we became increasingly worried about our ability to take in enough funds to cover the budget, and we drastically reduced the budget for 2012.
In the spring of 2012 we learned that a new pastor would be coming to St. Paul. In July Rev. Jacqueline Connelly became the first female clergy person to serve our congregation. Over the next year we completed several renovation projects at the parsonage, including replacing the plumbing and the HVAC ducts under the parsonage.
In January 2013 our membership stood at 228, and our average attendance for worship on Sunday mornings between both services was 84. By the summer of 2013 our financial situation was stable, but worries lingered about our waning attendance. In July the 8:55 Alive contemporary service stopped meeting when Brad and Jayne Williams, two of our musicians who had taken the lead in this service, stopped coming to St. Paul.
In 2013 Nurture Committee started planning evening outings for young adults in an effort to get this demographic more involved in the church. In April the Witness Committee sponsored a Community Worship service at our FLC in conjunction with Corinth Baptist Church and Four Mile Missionary Baptist Church. The youth attended Revolution in Columbia, and in July five adults and two youth participated in Salkehatchie Summer Service. The adults were still taking special trips, and they were planning a second Caribbean cruise.
In September 2013 St. Paul turned 60. We changed the times of Sunday school and church to 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. and started having a brief time for fellowship and refreshments before Sunday school. Sunday school attendance began improving. Our 2014 stewardship campaign went well, with 76% of our general fund budget being pledged. Over 115% of our Family Life Center needs were pledged.
In May 2014 Gail Akins Ferguson, who had been our adult choir director for the past 31 years, gave up the position preparing to retire to Florida. VBS for the children that summer was popular, as well as a separate adult program in July. Attendance at morning worship had leveled off at between 40 and 50. Audrey Osteen took over as choir director in the fall.
Concerns about our falling attendance and financial shortfalls dominated our 2015 budget discussion and Charge Conference.
Our membership stood at 175.
In April 2015 we learned that we would be welcoming a new minister.
Rev. Robert Reeves and his family moved into the parsonage the last week of June, 2015. Laurie Knapp became our Music & Choir Director in April of 2016.
The history of St. Paul United Methodist Church is not so much about our different buildings and our various programs over the years. It is the story of generations of United Methodists who lived and died, who had happy times and sad times, while worshiping God and Jesus Christ as members of our St. Paul church family. We pray that God will to continue to bless our fellowship for many generations to come.
OUR PASTORS Years of Service at St. Paul UMC - with THEIR WIVES, & CHILDREN AT HOME
Rev. Melvin E. Tingle 1952-1954 (Marguerite)
Rev. James E. Alewine 1954-1960 (Betty - Donna, Michael, & Glenn)
Rev. Woodrow Ward 1960-1966 (Ruth)
Rev. George C. Owens 1966-1970 (Karolyn - Clay & John)
Rev. Benjamin B. Barnes 1970-1977 (Sue – Will, Susan, & Benjie)
Rev. Donald F. Funderburk 1977-1980 (Mary – Marc & Celeste)
Rev. Charles Polk 1980-1984 (Hattie)
Rev. Henry M. Thomson, Jr. 1984-1987 (Mae – Laura, Rebecca & Mary Jane)
Rev. Ray K. Smith 1987-1993 (Sarah – Sundi & Molly)
Rev. Michael Bruce 1993-1999 (Angela – Shannon & Kevin)
Rev. Bill Berry Interim 1999
Rev. Randy M. Taylor 1999 – 2005 (Nancy – Amy, Laura, & Mark)
Rev. Brian Gilmer 2005 - 2010 (Jennifer- Bryson)
Rev. Tresco Shannon 2010 - 2012
Rev. Jacqueline Connelly 2012 - 2015
Rev. Robert Reeves 2015 - (Melanie - Josh & Susie)